By JOSEPHINE IGBINOVIA
Chief (Mrs.)Victoria Folashade Thomas-Fahm’s may be taking a back seat on the fashion-designing scene these days, but she laid the platform for the Nigerian fashion industry. She was Nigeria’s first fashion designer and the first to own a boutique(Shade’s Boutique) in Nigeria.
Her trademark was using traditional fabrics to create diverse styles. Multi-talented Mrs Thomas-Fahm designed, cut, sewed, modelled and produced fashion shows! Her name is in the Nigerian women hall of fame. These days, she’s cheerfully rendering selfless services through several service clubs. She served as president of the Rotary Club of Victoria Island from 2009-2010, achieving giant feats.
Recently, her fellow 2009/2010 Rotarian presidents gathered in Lagos to inaugurate the Forum of Able Presidents. At the function, she had a chat with Vista Woman about how her past has been of great influence in her service to humanity. She also blames Nigeria’s woes on mothers who have neglected their traditional roles.
What do you remember about your tenure as Rotarian President?
The year was a very successful one. I did a project on kidney, and we built and donated a fully equipped kidney dialysis centre to the Island General Hospital, with two machines installed. It was the first of its kind, and it operated free-of-charge for two years.
The project was actually sponsored by Alhaji Aliko Dangote. Now, it’s been handed over to the Lagos State Government and they’re running it. The club also engaged in various other projects. For instance, we fed the poor for 22 months instead of the stipulated 12 months designed by the district.
This is the first time we’re having past Rotarian presidents coming together to form a team; what inspired the launch of the Forum of Able Presidents?
We want to be able to encourage upcoming Rotarians. As Presidents of various Rotary clubs in 2009/2010, we all had very successful tenures, and we believe we should let others learn from that. Rotary is about continuity of service, and that’s what we hope to achieve through this Forum of Able Presidents. We want to continue serving humanity.
Considering your antecedent, one would expect you to have refrained from activities by now; what keeps you going?
To keep going, you must feel the need to keep going. When you see other people who are not as fortunate as you are, you see the need to help! That alone is something to keep one going!
Now that you’re retired from fashion, what are you into?
I belong to a few NGOs and other kinds of social clubs. Also, I still design from time to time. I also like writing, and that takes my time.
Selfless service requires funds, and you’re practically retired from paid jobs; how do you finance your projects?
There is a popular saying that says “I cannot do it, but I know who can”. In life, it comes to a point where you use your popularity and influence to achieve desired results. I remember when I had to build and equip the kidney dialysis centre.
God brought a friend of mine, Prof.Elebute, to whom I spoke and from there, everything started spinning; we had Dangote who keyed in and gave us a substantial sum of money. Many others were there for us to get that project done, and before we knew it, the project was done!
You mean that you’re reaping from the platforms and network you’ve built over the years?
Yes, I would say. It is important to always let people believe in you. You have to earn people’s interest, otherwise, they won’t trust you with their money; especially money of such magnitude. They should know you for keeping to your words, and this is what I would always encourage everybody to do. You might not be able to do everything, but you have to ‘earn’ the people who can.
When you look back to your 20s and 30s, what memories come to mind?
Hardwork, focus, and truthfulness! Those are the words that come to mind. It’s not possible for you to go through life comfortably or successfully if you’re not able to tell the truth, or if people find you wanting. People have to know you for telling the truth, and for being a man or woman of your words.
You were one of those people who enjoyed the serenity Nigeria once enjoyed; could you compare that Nigeria with what we have now?
I think I’ll blame some mothers; they’ve neglected their duties. You have to spend more time with your home and family because it gives you the opportunity to influence their morals. A lot of mothers abandon their children to drivers and house helps, and do not return home until late at night. No family can grow that way! Money is good, but the end result of neglecting your home is worse than anything.
But how feasible is your point in this day and time when women are clamouring for gender equality?
I know you would say it’s not easy to stay at home, be at work and still be equal to men. But the fact is that the priority of a woman should be her home; every other thing can be fixed around this. You can take a 9am-5pm job! When you continue staying away from home because of work, will you buy happiness with the money earned when the children are already wild? No!
How then can we gain the better representation we seek in a society where female politicians have to attend meetings at odd hours?
One thing I noticed when I was abroad was that when women get married, they stayed close to their families for a period of five years before going back to demanding careers. It is true that we want to have equality with men, but the fact is that it is not possible. Even western women have not been able to achieve that!
But the thing is that these women are able to set their priorities right. If you look at the age group of women in politics abroad, you’ll find that they start from 40 upward. Hardly will you find younger women engaging in active politics. Even if you do find, you will notice they’re career women who hardly have time for their homes!
What’s your advice for younger women?
You have to earn your own living, cherish your integrity and love other people. When you see something going wrong, do not join in. That’s how we can actually help Nigeria as women.